Friday, December 22, 2006

Logbook: Manzanillo

ManzanilloOn Wednesday morning, I made my daily trek into town, continued south across Kelley Creek and into Cahuita National Park. There I found a lovely five mile trail that follows a beautiful beach, crosses a number of streams, rounds a rocky point and ends back at the road a few miles out of town. I really enjoyed this walk and stopped at many places along the way just to enjoy the view. Including the walk to town, the Park walk, the walk back to town and then the walk back to my room, I estimate my total distance for the day at about ten miles. Although it was fairly level all the way, the heat and humidity pretty much wore me out and I was happy to take a dip in the pool, drink plenty of fluids and have a quiet early evening. Thursday morning I decided to explore the environs south of Cahuita, so I walked into town and caught the local bus -- not quite a “chicken bus” but close -- and rode about 10 miles to Puerto Viejo.

Here I found another really nice beach and a cheery assortment of restaurants, shops and accommodations. I walked around for a bit while I drank a bottle of water and came to the conclusion that Puerto Viejo is a fairly “high energy” place that is popular with more of a “younger” crowd -- surfers, college kids, etc. -- so I caught the next bus further south. After passing through a series of little beach towns, the road -- and my ride -- ended in the town of Manzanillo. Although there are the usual assortment of tourist establishments on hand, Manzanillo is more of a “local” kind of place. It has a long, broad white beach that was being enjoyed by a diverse group of people including a few surfers, some young families, a small number of gringos and what was obviously a local school class on an “outing” complete with sack races, egg tosses, tug-of-war and the like. I found myself liking Manzanillo right away and, after a brief walk-around, parked myself on the second floor of Maxi’s bar and settled down with a bottle of water, a chicken sandwich and my book.

I was quite content to stay there for a while, and that was a good thing because I soon learned that the next -- and last -- bus back to Cahuita would not leave until “sometime early evening.” So, between my meal, my book, some random chats, a walk on the beach and a nap under a palm tree I spent the rest of the day fully enjoying Manzanillo. At about five-thirty, a bus pulled in and people started to head for it, so I joined the queue and got on board. Probably because this was the last bus of the day, it made stops every few hundred meters and became packed with a collection of visitors who were heading back to their hotels and locals who were heading home from work. Finally, at about seven the bus pulled into Cahuita where I bailed out and made the trek back to my room. I have to admit that I was once again pretty worn out! So yesterday, after two pretty tiring days, I decided to just “hang out” and my day consisted of taking a walk on the beach, finishing my book and doing a little iLife.

Last night I ate at “La Casa Creole” where chef Antonio was kind enough to pepare my very favorite meal: A steak salad! Yum! If you ever visit Cahuita, you must dine with Antonio, his lovely wife Valerie, and their exotic hostess Soleil. It will be the best meal you have in Costa Rica, I guarantee it! With that, my time on the southern Caribbean coast comes to an end and I will be heading up to Limon this afternoon to begin the next leg of The Voyage. My time here has been fabulous and I strongly encourage any of you who are planning a trip to Costa Rica to include this lovely area in your itinerary. It is by far my favorite part of the country, and I would come back here -- and maybe only back here -- again!

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